The Pacific Northwest is currently experiencing one of the worst heat waves in modern history. During June, this area of the globe likely hasn’t seen temperatures this high in tens of thousands of years. Extreme heat has profound effects on fisherpeople and the fisheries that we care for.
First off, if you’re going fishing in extreme heat be prepared. Sometimes it’s easy to forget about drinking water when you’re standing in it. Make sure to hydrate properly. Water is great but your body also requires electrolytes, which can be found in various different drinks and powders. Getting extremely dehydrated can lead to very negative health consequences. Sun protection is also a necessity. Sunscreen is the classic solution, but staying covered with light protective clothing can be a better option while fishing. We’ve got great sun shirts for sale at the shop and online if you need some protection. We also have some great wide-brim protective sun hats. Always be aware of how you feel while on the water. Don’t sacrifice your health for a day of fishing, it’s not worth it.
Let’s talk about how extreme heat affects fishing. As water temperatures warm in the spring, trout have an increased metabolism and appetite. However, once the water temperature gets above 60 degrees trout start to get sluggish. When water temperatures reach the 60s it’s time to think about landing the fish faster than you normally would to reduce stress. Remove hooks efficiently and keep the fish in the water during the entire landing process. Revive the fish by positioning it’s head so that current is moving through the gills and let the fish swim out of your hand. In stillwater, gently move the fish back and forth until it’s able to swim away by itself. If water temperatures reach 67 degrees, it’s time to quit fishing for trout. The combined stress of very warm water and being caught will likely kill or injure trout.
ODFW encourages anglers to target trout in higher elevations where temperatures are cooler. Fishing tailwaters, like the Crooked River, is a good choice, as are spring creeks. It is essential to target waters that are more resilient to drastic temperature changes. Lot’s of lakes have cool temperatures a few feet down despite having very high surface temperatures. It can be good practice to fish deeper in the lakes than normal. The Lower Deschutes is closed for fishing below Sherars Falls down to the mouth, from 2pm until an hour before sunrise. Be sure to always check for more updates in the fishing regulations at myodfw.com, they may have to take further emergency actions to protect fisheries later in the summer.
We have great products around the shop that will help you practice proper catch and release tactics during hot conditions. Nets are vital for quickly landing and releasing fish, without ever taking them out of the water. A good pair of forceps or a Ketchum release tool can help get hooks out fast. There's nothing like a good thermometer for checking water temperatures while you're out fishing.
The extreme heat that we are experiencing will only worsen the historic drought that Oregon is experiencing. This will undoubtedly increase the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Campfires are great but when fire risk is high you’ll need to find something else to sit around. Creating a fire when fires are prohibited is an incredibly dumb decision, don’t burn down the forest just for one night of fun. We need to do everything we can to prevent wildfires this season. It would be a tragedy if last summer's wildfires repeated themselves.
During an extreme event like this, we need to consider what we can do to preserve our beloved fisheries.